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Civil society reject the use of armed forces to repress public rallies

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say_no_to_army.jpgTwenty seven Malaysian civil society organisations, including FORUM-ASIA member, SUARAM, has urged Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi to immediately assure the public that the army would not be deployed in civilian matters.

FORUM-ASIA has also issued an open letter to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to reject the deployment of armed forces to handle civilian matters and respect the fundamental rights to freedom of assembly. Read the letter here.


Civil society reject the use of armed forces to repress public rallies

We, the undersigned civil society groups view with deep consternation and dismay at a report carried by the local print media yesterday. It disclosed that members of the police and the armed forces were carrying out joint security exercises at the Police College in Cheras.

The report stated that such joint security exercises focused on a possible deployment in the Klang Valley in response to demonstrations in the event of an emergency having to be declared.

The civil society groups call on the Government to firmly reject any proposal to deploy the armed forces to assist the police in maintaining order during any public rally, be it the one planned for Sunday or any other.

This unprecedented measure is evidence that some of those inauthority over the police and armed forces in this country are unable or unwilling to comprehend the right of citizens in this country to peaceably exercise their fundamental liberties.

Any such proposal to deploy the armed forces in this manner wrongly conveys the impression to both the Malaysians and the world at large that the country is already in a state of crisis or in imminent danger of falling apart.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It will also make the recent statement of the Prime Minister that the security situation in the country is under control rings hollow.

This will raise doubts about the Prime Minister's ability to provide positive leadership and to rein in irresponsible or mischievous elements within his own government who are attempting to fabricate a situation of insecurity in order to advance their own selfish political agendas.

Previous rallies however have been held peacefully without the need for any presence of army personnel. Since 8 March 2008, our country has moved forward in her journey to a more democratic plural society.

This can only be for the greater good. There are those who say that our country would suffer unless there is political stability, and by this they mean to be ruled by an authoritarian government.

Those who thrived under the authoritarianism of the past would have us believe that the various expressions of politically-diverse views, whether by way of rallies, demonstrations or even intellectual debates and discussions at public forums, represent a breakdown of public order.

Such exercise of citizen's democratic rights is perceived as therefore a threat to the security of this country and necessitates strong-arm tactics such as the deployment of the armed forces in what would essentially be the work of crowd-control.

We say that what our country needs, in order to progress and prosper, is a well-entrenched democracy. A free and fair society and an open democracy are crucial to our long-term peace and stability.

It is these that will ultimately promote harmonious living, investor confidence and economic prosperity. In this regard therefore, individuals or groups making or supporting calls for involving the armed forces in the preservation of public order are doing a grave disservice to our country and the economy.

We strongly urge the Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi to immediately assure the Malaysian public that the army would not be deployed in civilian matters and take to task those who are causing unnecessary alarm and concern and seemingly conniving in the disruption of peace and normal life in order to fulfill their personal agenda.

We urge all groups and concerned citizens to make similar calls and send a loud and clear message that any compromise of constitutional democracy will not be tolerated and must not be even contemplated.

  1. All Women's Action Society (AWAM)
  2. Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
  3. Center for Orang Asli Concerns
  4. Civil Society Initiatives for Parliamentary Reform (CSI-Parliament)
  5. Civil Rights Committee of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
  6. Community Development Center (CDC)
  7. Empower
  8. Group of Concerned Citizens
  9. Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT)
  10. Jawatankuasa Kabajikan Mahasiswa/I (JKMI)
  11. Labour Resource Center (LRC)
  12. LLG Cultural Development Center
  13. Malaysian Youth and Student Democratic Movement (DEMA)
  14. Monitoring Sustainability of Globalisation (MSN)
  15. National Institute for Electoral Integrity (NIEI)
  16. Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor (PERMAS)
  17. Pusat Kommunikasi Masyarakat (Pusat Komas)
  18. Research for Social Advancement (REFSA)
  19. Sahabat Wanita
  20. Sisters in Islam
  21. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
  22. Tenaganita
  23. Women's Aid Organization (WAO)
  24. Women's Candidacy Initiative (WCI)
  25. Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
  26. Youth for Change (Y4C)
  27. Youth Section of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall

For any inquiry, please kindly contact spoke person Mr. Yunus Ali (Chairperson of NIEI), mobile phone no: 019-3631438.